Opponents go postal over Chin’s real estate PAC mailings

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A Soho resident recently created a parody political flier, above, for Margaret Chin, riffing on one supporting her sent out by the new Jobs for New York PAC, top. Sean Sweeney of Downtown Independent Democrats separately has created a piece spoofing the pro-Chin Jobs for New York mailings. Fifteen thousand of them have been mailed out and are expected to arrive at residents’ homes by around this Saturday.

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Spurred by a slew of recent mailings by the real estate industry endorsing Margaret Chin for re-election, a local political club is about to go postal — as in, fire back with a spoof mailing of its own.

Sean Sweeney of the Downtown Independent Democrats recently created the anti-Chin piece while on vacation in Wisconsin, with the help of Penelope Grill, a friend from Soho who has some good computer design software. D.I.D. has endorsed Jenifer Rajkumar, Chin’s opponent.

The spoof mailing will be sent to 15,000 people in Lower Manhattan’s First Council District, and probably reach people’s homes this Sat., Aug. 10. The design, printing and mailing of the piece cost $6,500 total.

But that sum doesn’t come close to the nearly $80,000 that the new Jobs for New York PAC has spent on pro-Chin mailings in the past month and a half.

In late June and early July, the new PAC sent out at least eight mailings backing the incumbent councilmember for re-election, according to the city’s Campaign Finance Board. These mass mailings fall under the category of “independent expenditures,” since the money was not contributed directly to Chin’s campaign.

The PAC is backing Chin and another Council incumbent and six challengers for other seats.

The Chin mailings have each focused on a different issue, or, as they are described in their entries on the C.F.B. Web site: “Chin Education,” “Chin Jobs & Economy,” “Chin Meet Margaret,” “Chin Tough Negotiator,” “Chin’s Record,” “Chin Affordable Housing.” The mass mailings cost about $12,500 per batch to send out.

One of the Jobs for New York pieces declares Chin will fight to create affordable housing. Another touts her record on creating new schools and reducing class size. A third proclaims, “Margaret Chin is Rebuilding New York’s Middle Class.” The mailings highlight that she is endorsed by the likes of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Councilmember Rosie Mendez and Congressmember Nydia Velazquez, with small head shots of each.

However, many Downtown residents are outraged that Chin has not rejected the support — and prolific mailings — of Jobs for New York, since one of the PAC’s leading members, the Real Estate Board of New York, has consistently fought to weaken rent-regulation protections for middle- and lower-class residents.

Chin has refused to publicly reject the PAC’s efforts on her behalf, saying that, well, she can’t really do anything about it since it’s an independent expenditure.

Nevertheless, with the upcoming primary election now just a month away, Rajkumar is challenging Chin to rebuff both the real estate group’s support and its mailings on her behalf. The upstart Democratic district leader called on Chin to do so at a recent debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters. But, again, Chin said she couldn’t do anything about it, due to the nature of it being an independent expenditure.

In a recent interview with the editorial staff of The Villager and NYC Community Media, Chin reiterated that she can’t really stop an outside group if it wants to support her and send out mailings praising her.

“Probably, I have already said that this kind of expenditure is not good,” she told The Villager. “We can send them a stronger message, but it’s an independent expenditure.”

She quipped that she wished the mailings had better photos of her.

She stressed that people instead should look at her “track record” and her endorsements by elected officials, like Congressmembers Jerry Nadler and Nydia Velazquez and the Working Families Party. And she pointed to her efforts to save affordable housing at 505 LaGuardia Place, a Mitchell-Lama co-op on New York University’s southern superblock in the South Village.

She noted, “505 LaGuardia was separate from the ULURP,” referring to the public review of N.Y.U.’s 2031 mega-development plan, “but it was going on in the background — to preserve it for affordable housing. You’re talking about 175 families, and a lot of them are seniors.

“We’re going back to our track record,” Chin stated. “Look at my history — for my constituents. I’ve been there for them.”

She added that she was disappointed at not being able to get 100 percent affordable housing for the SPURA (Seward Park Urban Renewal Area) project, and had to settle for 50 percent, which nevertheless is still a very high percentage. And a school as part of the project still needs to be settled. But she added that she pushed for more and was able to win 21 Spring St. as a site for more affordable housing.

Chin, in turn, lashed back at Rajkumar, taking exception with the district leader’s support, telling The Villager, “You should ask my opponent — why are a lot of her constituents from out of state? And what about her contributions from wealthy South-Asian friends?”

Chin said she’s used to being mischaracterized, though, recalling her early days as an activist.

“Back then, they called me a communist,” she said.

“You just have to look at where her support is,” Chin said, referring to Rajkumar again and her backers. “I’ve been here for 50 years. This is the community that I love.”

Meanwhile, Rajkumar, in an interview with The Villager and NYC Community Media, pulled no punches when asked about Chin and the Jobs for New York mailings.

“This is an attempt to buy the Council seat — just as the Council seat has been up for sale the last four years,” she charged. “Chin said, ‘I can’t stop them.’ … We need a real leader in the Council who actually stands up for the community. She couldn’t stop N.Y.U., she couldn’t stop the Seaport plan, she couldn’t stop the [Jobs for New York] PAC… .”

A spokesperson for the PAC said, in a statement, why they feel that Chin is the right woman for the job.

“Jobs for New York and its members believe strongly that New York City needs to create jobs, strengthen the local housing market and create more affordable housing options in order to make the local economy grow,” he said. “Margaret Chin’s time in public service makes it clear that she shares this view. She’s the kind of leader New York City needs in office right now.”

He praised Chin for her “balance.”

“She has amassed a very balanced record over the years,” he said, “creating jobs…a happy balance.”

He noted that Jobs for New York isn’t just composed of REBNY, but also includes the likes of the mason tenders and carpenters unions.

The economic recovery is still pretty tepid, and the PAC doesn’t want to see things backslide, he added. Plus, due to term limits, there will be a big turnover next year in the Council, with about 20 new members, he said. So, they are targeting a few Council races they feel are “competitive” — with Chin vs. Rajkumar clearly being one of them.

The PAC spokesperson argued that it’s incorrect to say that REBNY “takes issue with affordable housing.”

Practically the only new affordable housing being created in Manhattan below 96th St. is being built by REBNY members, he noted. These units are part of the 421-a program, or “80/20,” under which 80 percent of a building’s apartments are market rate but the remainder are affordable, in return for which the developer gets a tax break. However, generally, these units are not permanently affordable.

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8 Responses to Opponents go postal over Chin’s real estate PAC mailings

  1. Voters Remember

    "Chin said she’s used to being mischaracterized, … 'Back then, they called me a communist,' she said."

    No, Margaret. You called yourself a communist. Why are you lying to The Villager and to us?

    Read this NY Times article, where Chin serves as a spokesperson – a spokesperson, not some prole – for the Communist Workers Party, USA, a Maoist cell bent on the "violent armed overthrow" of the capitalist system. http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=FB0A

    Chin's lying continues in her ridiculous claim that she cannot stop the Real Estate Board of NY (REBNY) from sending out campaign literature on her behalf. Sure she can. She can denounce REBNY as the lobbying association on New York's real-estate industry and she could demand REBNY to stop. She doesn't.

    In fact, of some half-dozen candidates receiving REBNY money, Chin ranks #1, with $80,037 real-estate money invested in her so far, and over $100,000 more due.

    Chin quips that she "wished the mailings had better photos of her." Who is she kidding? Take a look at the photos. These are not found on the internet. These photos were professionally taken with Chin's full participation. She claims she can do nothing about REBNY's money, yet she poses for its campaign literature? C'mon!

    She lies about being a Communist, she lies about being a Capitalist, she lies about REBNY. Chin just lies, and lies, and lies.

  2. Vote Jenifer PLEASE

    PLEASE, Lower Manhattan, vote Jenifer Rajkumar this September 10th. We can't have a council member who is completely bought out and willing to sell herself (and our community) to the highest bidder! We need a council member elected by the people, who will represent the people. That council member is Jenifer Rajkumar.

  3. ChineseSupport

    Looks like even the Chinese community is turned off by Chin's selling out to big real estate.
    From today's City & State: "Rajkumar Gets Support from Chinese Community in Race Against Chin."

    City Council candidate Jenifer Rajkumar won the endorsement of several leaders in New York City’s Chinese community—one of whom is a former operative for incumbent Councilwoman Margaret Chin—who are turned off by the money being spent on Chin by the powerful Real Estate Board of New York.

    Supporting Rajkumar are Steven Wong, Chin’s former director of public relations during her 2009 campaign and now CEO of New Vision W Consulting; Paul J. Q. Lee, a small business owner and activist; Peter Kwong, a Chinatown community leader and professor at Hunter College; and Trinh Duong, a program director and administrator of the U.S.-Asia Law Institute at NYU School of Law, and chair of the Board for the Chinese Staff and Workers Association.

    Through its political action committee, Jobs For New York, REBNY pledged a share of its $10 million war chest towards Chin’s re-election campaign. The PAC also reportedly will run negative ads against Rajkumar. REBNY’s board of governors includes several developers who have built projects in Chin’s district.

    “REBNY, the real-estate front group backing Chin, has harmed the Chinese community and countless residents in our district through luxury development and aggressive efforts to weaken rent regulations. I am running to fight for working families and deliver the leadership they need and deserve,” said Rajkumar.

  4. Picture in the above Brochures is incomplete with out a Broom.

  5. "a few Council races they feel are “competitive” — with Chin vs. Rajkumar clearly being one of them." – sounds like the lobbist are scared. Incumbents rarely have "competitive" races, and had Chin not gone against the wishes of the voters she would not be in this position. A nice woman, no doubt, but she does not deserve to be re-elected. She will only help big developers re-make our neighorhood with big prices, and that will force us out of the area we call home. We all need to vote for someone else.

  6. I have to laugh that Mrs. Chin cites the support of Sheldon Silver…another sleazy politician whose Albany leadership position has made him feel he’s the kingmaker. Silver should be forced to resign.
    And I didn’t like her comments “I’ve been here 50 years” implying that Ms Rajkumar is an interloper. While not in the same category as Weiner and Spitzer, Mrs. Chin has lost the respect of many of us in the District 1 community. I’m voting for Jenifer Rajkumar.

  7. Isn't it a bit ironic that Jobs for NY has been picketing Chin's offices on other issues?

    Having once battled a (mistaken in my opinion) decision by the Councilmember – it feels lousy to lose. We all fight hard because we care deeply about our community. Deciding what is possible or what makes sense or what is an acceptable compromise is a judgment call. And sometimes leaders make compromises – not a popular idea but an honest one. We all make compromises to survive in a system that puts profits before people. It’s pretense to assume otherwise.

    Chin has been a good Councilmember- not perfect. Fifty percent affordable housing for Seward Park in this current climate is impressive (hell, moving forward on Seward Park was a miracle). She has fought for good policies and made good decisions that moved the community forward.

    The City Council is not the revolution, it is reformist –working within an essentially corrupt system to get the best (hopefully) outcomes we can get while we struggle for real change from “the bottom up”.

    Promising people what they want to hear doesn’t equal the ability to pull off those promises. But that is politics. Still, you don’t want to lead people into expectations that any leader will “solve” the mess we are all in. It’s a bit harder than that.

    We could use ideas that are truly visionary that acknowledge the complexity of our current situation. We could us plans that are concrete and achievable. Both are desperately needed now. I don't think in the world of actual politics- especially given the unprecedented wealth inequality here- we want to kid ourselves that this is going to be easy. We need something better than “boo the bad real estate industry” – despite their unconscionable profiteering.

    I will go with someone who has been a community organizer in a working class community, lived in the neighborhood long enough to know who we are and is willing to fight for affordable housing, decent schools and jobs. Even if it means I won’t always agree with her.

    • Nice how you:
      - ignore Chin's sellout regarding NYU,
      - her destruction of the landmarked 135 Bowery to mainland Chinese bankers who gave her campaign $6000, – - – her handing over the South Street Seaport to the Howard Hughes Corporation,
      - her ramming a B.I.D. down the throats of Chinatown and SoHo small businesses
      - her kowtowing to Chris Quinn
      - her recent flipflop vote on Governors Island, screwing the trade unions

      All you did was give some vague rendering of your philosophy, but not a single reason, nor a single specific thing that she has done, to support Margaret Chin.
      Because you cannot.
      Nor can Chin.
      She is an abject failure who sells out our neighborhood to the highest bidder.

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